TESLA Guitarist’s DAVE RUDE BAND - Brand New Train, Same Old Track

July 7, 2013, a year ago

By Aaron Small

tesla dave rude band feature

“It’s been years since the last one came out. I’m excited to have something new out now; especially on a label which is great,” says TESLA guitarist DAVE RUDE in reference to his new solo album, The Key, which breaks the drought since 2009’s independently released Carry Me Home. “The Key definitely doesn’t sound like ‘80s metal, but at the same time, if you like ‘80s metal, there’s a good chance you’d like it. To me, it comes from a classic rock influence, but it’s got newer rock mixed in with some unique personal twists.”
The aforementioned label is Rat Pak Records – home to JOHN CORABI and GEORGE LYNCH. Rude explains how he came to join their roster. “My friend Mike Stone, who used to play guitar in QUEENSRŸCHE for a lot of years, was throwing a jam one night when I first joined Tesla (seven years ago), so we did a couple shows together. I hadn’t seen him in a couple years, but I ran into him at NAMM in January in LA, and he was telling me how he’s been on Rat Pak Records for a couple years. He said they’re really cool and let him do whatever he wants; I didn’t think anything of it. Then a few days later after I get home, he says, ‘I do A&R for those guys too, and I’m thinking you might be good for that label.’ I thought, wow, cool! It hadn’t even crossed my mind. So he gave them my number and they called me up. We were originally talking about doing a new album ‘cause I do still want to put out an instrumental guitar record; that’s kind of where my head was at and I’ve been writing for that. But I did have a full album that had never really been released, so they wanted to put that out first as an introduction. Then later in the year I can put out a new project; so that’s the plan now. They were really into The Key, and I’m just glad we were able to put it out. When the band was really active, it was always self-released; I never got to have a label or management behind it to help. Now that I’m with a real label, it’s great to have it out on a bigger scale. Just doing interviews, and having the fan bundle packs with shirts and hats and signed posters, a miniature Les Paul guitar; all sorts of really cool stuff – I would buy that! I was stoked when I saw it.” To be clear, the ten songs which comprise The Key aren’t leftovers that were submitted to Tesla and turned down by vocalist Jeff Keith or anyone else in the band, they’re complete solo entities always intended for Dave Rude Band. “Absolutely, these are songs that just came about organically for this project. I’ve always kept the two worlds separate. I wrote a bunch with Tesla on the last studio record, Forever More, and that was a great experience. We’re already writing for a new record, which is fantastic. It just sort of happens. I just write and something comes out and I’m lucky; that’s a cool song or riff, and then I can think about it. I don’t think about it while it’s happening, but afterwards I can say that sounds like something Tesla would be into, or, this is cool but it’s not Tesla, so I’ll do something with it. That’s how it gets thrown into different piles of what would be used for what. These were definitely all written in my house or the studio to be for this project. I don’t think I’ve ever done any of that stuff – it didn’t work for this band so I’ll use it for another one. A lot of people do, and it works out well sometimes. These songs don’t sound like Tesla, but I think most people who like Tesla, like this. At the core it’s hard rock, guitar solos, and melodic choruses. Hard rock fans in general have a pretty broad spectrum of taste, at least within that genre. People like CHEAP TRICK, but they also like LAMB OF GOD, you can see those CDs in the same collection and not be surprised.”
The one surprising thing on The Key is the cover of PETER GABRIEL’s ‘Sledgehammer’, which was originally released in 1986 on his hugely successful So album. “It’s always been a favourite song of mine,” admits Rude. “It’s one of those songs that’s everyone’s favourite song; even if they don’t know it, everybody likes that song. One day at rehearsal we tried it, and it sounded good ‘cause it’s a trio. It was totally different, but we kept the core with the melody and the lyrics and the chord changes. Just by virtue of it being a Les Paul and a Marshall, it turned out heavy and groove-oriented. We don’t have all the lush production of the original, which I love, but we’ve always done stuff as intending it was to be live. It has to sound good as three guys in a room; it’s got to work just like this. When we approached ‘Sledgehammer’, we had to make it sound big and interesting for the whole five or six minutes ‘cause it’s a longer song; so it turned into an improv jam at the end with all three of us just going nuts. So the one on the album, that’s the one that happened that day. But every other take, every other night, would have been different. It’s a heavy blues version of Peter Gabriel.” The song that follows ‘Sledgehammer’ on The Key is not Charlie Manson, but ‘Charlie Mansion’ – as in a big, expensive house. “I’ve got to say, kudos to you dude! You’re the only guy who’s noticed that. People just call it Charlie Manson; even on radio. That song is older, I wrote the music for it years ago and it was originally called ‘Termite Mansion’. I then rewrote it a couple different times, to the point where when we were in the studio recording the vocals for it on this album, the producer, Marc Kapetan, and I thought everything was cool except the chorus vocal. It was good, but it just didn’t have as much punch. So we pressed stop, messed around with some ideas, and rewrote the chorus. In doing so, I then had to change the lyrics in the verses, so now there’s absolutely no real message. Except there is a line about Charlie Manson and a Hollywood Mansion, so it’s kind of in there. I just thought it was a cool play on words, but the song is really about – from my perspective specifically – being in a band and trying to do what you want to do no matter what. In the face of challenge or adversity it’s always hard to do that, especially in hard rock ‘cause there’s so much pressure these days with the industry in so much flux. To try and have any sort of success, it’d be a lot easier to just fall in line and sound like the radio bands. But I never wanted to do that; I didn’t have it in my heart to fake it. I’m going to do what I do and whether it works or not, at least I’ll be proud of it. So that’s kind of the core essence of it, but then I exaggerated it and made it into a character; maybe a little more extreme with an evil side to it.” At the end of The Key, after ‘Charlie Mansion’, lies an unlisted instrumental bonus track. “That again was because of our producer Marc Kapetan; he’d just let the tape roll. We were recording a song that’s probably my favourite on the album called ‘Afterlife’. We were just jamming before we recorded it, and those are the same chords as the chorus in ‘Afterlife’, just played differently. We did the bed tracks for the whole album live in the room together, so that’s why the album has that live feel, even though I did some overdubs afterwards. We were all standing around the drum kit with headphones on just playing, and Marc was messing with mic tones; but he happened to be recording. We were jamming on the chord changes, but completely different than ‘Afterlife’. Marc thought it sounded so good that we should change the song. I really like the way the song is, but it did have a cool vibe, so we put it in as a hidden track.” Speaking of ‘Afterlife’, the lyrical subject matter grapples with a question that everybody will eventually ask – is there an afterlife? Nobody knows, and nobody wants to die to find out the answer. If Dave was a betting man, where would he place his money? “Oh gosh… if you put a gun to my head right now, I guess I’d have to say yes. I’ve gone through periods of both; I was 100% sure there was absolutely nothing. And I definitely don’t feel that anymore. I wouldn’t be able to say certainly yes there is, but I’d rather say yes there is than no there isn’t; I’d lean more in that direction if it was a black and white type of answer.” Even if there is an afterlife, is it as black and white as heaven and hell? “Yeah, exactly; I think we’re in some other existence or dimension – but who knows? Honestly, I haven’t spent that much time thinking about it ‘cause it’s so infinite and multifaceted.”
The Key contains its fair share of lyrics about women, which every good rock n’ roll album has. ‘On My Own Again’ sees the song’s male protagonist always viewing the end of relationships as her fault, but then realizing that perhaps change is necessary on his part. “Exactly, that’s the core of that whole message. There’s two cool things about that song – one, Troy Luccketta from Tesla plays drums on it; which I’m super happy about! The other cool thing, which ties into why Troy plays drums on it, is that I wrote that song with a songwriter named Doc Holladay in Nashville. I go out to Nashville every few months and write songs with country writers who pitch them to country artists to try and get cut. It’s a whole different side thing I’ve been doing for a couple years now. It’s going real well and I’ve been lucky to write with some really great people. That was one of the first songs I wrote out there to pitch to KEITH URBAN or some sort of big pop/country act. We recorded it in Nashville, and Troy was in Nashville so he played drums on it. I actually only play acoustic guitar on it, everything else is Doc Holladay, the guy who I wrote it with, and his buddy Kyle Wood. I did a vocal version of it, and it was too rock n’ roll, so we had another country guy sing it with more of a twang in his voice. That’s the one we were pitching to people, but when it came to putting out The Key, nine songs wasn’t enough. We had to have at least ten songs to call it an album; and I already had this recorded. I’d done it live at some acoustic solo shows and it always got a really good reaction – and people had been asking for it. So why not put it on there? But we’ll use my rocking vocals. I was going to put a bunch of distorted guitar on there, but it doesn’t need it.” New songs in hand, fans want to know, will there be any Dave Rude solo shows this year? “I don’t think so. I don’t have any plans to right now. The schedule with Tesla is really busy, and we’re starting to write and record for a new album. I’m sure once we’re done with the touring, we’ll start getting heavier into the studio; hopefully to have an album out by next year. It’d be tough. It’s more just a record release project; the songs were recorded over a year ago at this point.” Tesla spent two days in June recording a brand new song called ‘Taste My Pain’. Dave provides further insight into that particular tune, “That song is pretty cool. It’s definitely firmly planted in the heavy aggressive side of Tesla. It’s kind of like a freight train, non-stop sort of rocking vibe. We’re all really excited about that song, so we’re working towards making a heavy album, not as many ballads as your usual Tesla record. There’s a good chance it’s going to be pretty balls to the wall. I mean, who knows ‘cause we’re just starting, but the other ideas have been similarly rocking and in your face.” The title ‘Taste My Pain’ is subject to a vast array of interpretations, Dave gives us his, “It’s hard to say, you’d really have to ask Jeff ‘cause he wrote all the words. But to me, what I get from it is kind of a frustration at the bad sides of modern life. Just sort of the madness of the world at times and being pissed off at that, but still trying to be the best person you can. I don’t know, I’m bad at interpreting other people’s lyrics.” Rumor has it ‘Taste My Pain’ will be issued as a digital single this summer. “That’s the intent to get some buzz going. It’s definitely kick-started us into writing a whole album. Originally it was, let’s just do a single for the fans. Two years ago now we released a song called ‘2nd Street’, one of the only new songs on Twisted Wires – which was mostly older songs that hadn’t been released yet. It went over real well. We played it live and people loved having a new song in the shows. We have a lot of die-hard fans that come to see us over and over again every year. They love the hits, which we always play, but they appreciate new stuff.” Looking at Tesla’s tour itinerary for 2013, it’s currently exclusive to The United States; any chance of a few shows in Canada? “I wish we were, I don’t know. New dates pop up all the time; I wouldn’t be surprised if we did. I’ve never played Canada since I joined the band (in 2006). I’ve had days off in Niagara Falls, but that’s as far as I’ve made it, so I’d really love to!”

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